Why You Can’t Add Jesus To Your Life

Christian SufferingThe Night Jesus Came To Eva

I just read an amazing story from Eric Metaxas‘s excellent book Miracles. It’s a story about a woman named Eva Meyer, the daughter of a brilliant physicist, Dr. C.J. Meyer. Dr. Meyer was as gentle as he was brilliant and a loving father, but unfortunately his other daughter, Eva’s sister, didn’t take after him or her mother.

In the early 1990s Eva was given her sister’s infant daughter to care for, and later, her infant son as well. Eva raised them as her own for four years. She also did her best to protect them from the destructive lifestyle of their parents’ who were ensnared in substance abuse. Eva’s sister would spontaneously take them away from time to time, but Eva had no custody rights to the children and was helpless in the situation.

About ten years passed. Eva’s sister was living in Seattle and now had six children. The oldest of them was ten. Eva’s sister said she wanted to pay Eva a visit and flew out to her home in Connecticut for Christmas. But what she really wanted was a life without her own kids. She left them with Eva and flew back to Seattle. Soon after she and her new boyfriend fell off the radar.

One day Eva was living her life and then literally overnight: she had complete responsibility for six kids. Poor Eva was so weary from the lies and manipulations of her sister over the years that this new situation, this expectation, this unexpected but unavoidable obligation to care for six young children completely overwhelmed her. She found herself struggling to connect with the youngest, eighteen month old Jonathan. She kept her distance emotionally. She guarded her heart from him because as it’s been said, the price of love is grief. And who knew? Her older sister could sweep in and take them all away suddenly and without warning as had happened before.

Eva also became angry, even enraged at her sister. “Drowning in rage” was the way she herself put it. That first night she wept and cried out to God continually.

That’s when something curious happened. As she lay there crying she noticed a shadow on the wall, and as shadows sometimes do this one looked somewhat like the silhouette of a man. But the more she stared at it the more it looked like a real man. Soon it was growing in size and appeared to be moving toward her. By the time it reached the foot of her bed she recognized the figure as Jesus. She was terrified. She became keenly aware of the loathing she had toward her sister. And then a scripture came out of her, it seemed to just erupt from inside her, spilling out of her lips, she said, “Have mercy on me, Jesus! I am a woman of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips!” (Isaiah 6:5)

At this point she was sure she would experience the wrath of God. And she knew in her heart she deserved the wrath of God. But what happened next was Jesus, with eyes burning and his hand lifted over her in benediction, prayed for her.

And her fear and rage melted under the love and warmth of His presence. Eva says, “waves and waves of the safest, warmest love enveloped me. I felt like I did when I was a baby and my dad rocked me in his arms till I fell asleep. I kept whispering… oh, please, Jesus… stay with me… I love you… thank you, Jesus…”

Shortly after sunrise He was gone. But during the night Eva’s rage was replaced with courage, and strength, and peace, and even joy and overwhelming love. She was free to love those kids. And she was free to love her sister.

It was a miracle.

How To Be Free Like Eva

I so need for what happened to Eva to happen to me. Maybe you need it too. Too often I look at the behavior of the people close to me and convince myself that my situation is special. I convince myself that I’m justified in my anger and frustration toward them. Usually the person is just behaving like millions of other human beings behave–and there’s nothing extraordinarily special about it.

But even if there is an offense, as there surely was in Eva’s case, there’s a certain response prescribed for me by Jesus.

But my instinct is so contrary to that response. When I feel offended I don’t want to get even–I want to get ahead.

Jesus says something different though. This is what He says.

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

When I do this, when you do this, we’re freed from our anger, bitterness, and resentment. We might feel like we’re giving something up when we follow those words of Jesus, but when we let go of our unforgiveness, when we love the way He says to love, we become free. This is how Eva loved. And to love like Eva, we have to cry out to God like Eva.

Why You Can’t Add Jesus To Your Life

What I want is to add Jesus to my life. I want to remain undisturbed and uninterrupted and have Jesus. I don’t want to be bothered by people–but I want to have Jesus. I want to do what I want when I want and have Jesus. I want to have enough money to be comfortable and have Jesus. I want to be entertained and have Jesus. But what am I thinking? That’s not at all what Jesus said it would be like to follow Him.

Jesus said we have to trade. We have to give our life in exchange for him, in exchange for Jesus. Jesus tells us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

If we try to hold onto our undisturbed comfortable life, we’ll lose our soul in the process. Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

I heard Francis Chan say that when we look at Philippians chapter 3 we see the part about knowing Jesus, and we like that. And then we see the part about experiencing the power of his resurrection, and we like that. And then comes the next part, the part that says we get to know the fellowship of his sufferings–and we don’t like that. We even try to ignore that part. But without a doubt suffering is a part of the Christian life. (Philippians 3)

Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” (John 14:23-24)

To keep Jesus’ words cry out to God the way Eva did. Ask Him to help you love the way Eva loved those kids and even her sister. Ask Him to help you “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Yes it’s not easy. And yes you will suffer.

The thing is, Jesus is worth it.

References:

Eric Metaxas, Miracles, Dutton Adult, 2014

Francis Chan, Crazy Love, David C. Cook, 2013

Image via Daniel Roy – Creative Commons

Who Did He Think He Was?

Mercy

Who Did He Think He Was?

I heard this story recently about a guy who ran a construction company. He was very successful and not surprisingly, he was industrious too. And when he drove he was often on his way to do something important.

Now this man is a Christian and, from what I understand, a guy you would probably describe as mild mannered if you talked with him face to face. But, if another driver did anything to slow him down when he was on the road, he would lose his composure. Bad drivers made him angry.

Then this man, the one with the anger, was diagnosed with cancer. And with the cancer came the treatments.

Well one day Continue reading

The 1 Thing God Wants You To Do (To Reveal Him To The World)

Love one another

God Uses People

Before we get to the one thing, I just want to establish that God uses people. He always has in the past and He still does today. God uses people to reveal Himself to the world. There are exceptions, like the time he led the Israelites with the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night (3,500 years or so ago). But it’s people He uses, most of the time, to reveal Himself to the world. Even a casual reading of just a few chapters of scripture affirms this.

Are You A Christian?

Are you a Christian?

If you are, then God wants to use you. He wants to use you to reveal Himself to the world, and He wants you to do one thing in particular. And here’s the one thing: He wants you to love other Christians.

And here’s how we know that to be true: Just before Jesus was about to be taken away and executed by the government, he gave us what he called “a new commandment.” He commanded us to love one another. And then he said plainly,

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

By this all people will know you are Jesus’ disciple, by your love for other disciples of Christ, by your love for other Christians. This is how God wants people to recognize us as Christians. This is how God wants to attract people to Christ. Love that’s noticeable to people. By this we will be known.

Or will we?

What are we known for?

What are you known for?

What am I known for?

As I write this I have to ask myself, “What have I done to love another Christian recently?”

Doing Something Different

I want to confess something to you. I fear I’m the man who buried his talent.

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the parable about the master who gave his servants talents. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. He left on a journey and when he returned, two of the servants were rewarded for investing their talents. One servant was too afraid to take the initiative, to venture out, and to invest his one talent–so he buried it. (Matthew 25:14-30)

What I’ve never heard anyone talk about is that it took courage for those other two servants to invest those talents. There was real risk involved. What if when the master returned, they were broke?

The one who buried his talent was afraid. He was afraid the investment would fail. He was afraid to take a loss. So he took what was given to him by his Master, and he buried it. Like that man, I’m afraid. I’m afraid to love other Christians. I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake. I’m afraid of rejection. I’m afraid I’ll look foolish. I’m afraid of the costs associated with loving. Loving costs time and energy. Loving others can cost money.

But even though there was risk involved for the other two servants, the ones who invested their talents. Even though it was possible their investments could have failed: they invested anyway.

If we don’t want to be like the man who buried his talent, we have to do better. And doing better means doing differently. You and I, we need to invest our love, in spite of the risks. We need to love other people, and other Christians in particular, or we’ll be just like that man who buried his talent.

God said to the two who invested in spite of the risks, “Well done good and faithful servant.” But He said something different to the one who didn’t invest because he was afraid. He called him, “wicked” and “slothful.”

For me at least, I so want to hear those words from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

For me at least, it’s time for change.

I hope you’ll join me.

Pray with me: “Father, Jesus said it plainly, that we’ll be known for our love for one another. Please give us Your Holy Spirit in abundant measure to change us. Make us a people who love each other in such a way that we’re known as Jesus’ disciples because of it. In Jesus name, amen.”

The Parable of the Talents

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

–Jesus Christ, Matthew 25:14-30

References:

Bible Gateway

Francis and Lisa Chan, You and Me Forever, Claire Love Publishing, 2014

Image via wilB – Creative Commons

Why Atheists Change Their Mind: 8 Common Factors

atheist conversion

The following is a blog post from Matt Nelson. You can read more from Matt on his blog at Reasonable Catholic.

Conversions from atheism are often gradual and complex, no doubt. For many converts the road is slow and tedious, tiring and trying. But in the end unbelievers who find God can enjoy an inner peace that comes from a clear conscience in knowing they held to truth and followed the arguments faithfully.Of course not all converts from atheism become Christian or even religious. Some converts only reach a deistic belief in God (an areligious position that God is “impersonal”) but the leap is still monumental; and it opens new, unforeseen horizons.

The factors that lead to faith are often diverse. It is clear that every former atheist has walked a unique path to God. Cardinal Ratzinger was once asked how many ways there are to God. He replied:

“As many ways as there are people. For even within the same faith each man’s way is an entirely personal one.”

Of course, the pope-to-be was not endorsing the view that “all religions are equal” but rather that there always seems to be a unique combination of factors—or steps—that move each convert towards belief in God. It also seems that some of these factors are more prominent across the board than others.

Here are eight common factors that lead atheists to change their minds about God:

1. Good Literature and Reasonable Writing.

Reasonable atheists eventually become theists because they are reasonable; and furthermore, because they are honest. They are willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads; and in many cases the evidence comes to the atheist most coherently and well-presented through the writings of believers in God.

Author Karen Edmisten admits on her blog: Continue reading

Church: If the earliest Christ followers didn’t do church the way we do today, why should I?

should I go to church

To Go Or Not To Go?

I had lunch with a twenty-something and thirty-something today. These two men happen to be two of my favorite people on planet earth. We had a great time together. Toward the end of our meal the conversation turned to church. During the conversation both agreed that attending church is unnecessary. One commented that Pope Francis made the statement: It is not necessary to go to church, and, for many nature can be a church. The other made the accurate observation that the early followers of Christ didn’t go to a church building to worship in the same way we do today. And I have to confess, I agree with him. And if you’re interested, you can listen to this guy who shares some of the same sentiments as the thirty-something who made that comment: If Jesus were the pastor of your church you probably wouldn’t go there

But what about that? What about the earliest Christians? If the earliest Christ followers didn’t do church the way we do today, why should we? Continue reading

Your Money (And your future)

financesNew House With A View

There’s a thirty-something I know who looked out his window the other day to see his neighbor urinating on a garage. I asked him what he did about it, and he said, “I just smiled and waved at the guy. He was very embarrassed, believe me.” This thirty-something, he very recently made a decision to buy a duplex, and now he and his family are living in one unit. They’re going to rent the other. It’s only temporary, but the thing is, his strategy comes with sacrifices. The unit is small for his family of three and his large dog. The purchase stretches his budget to the max, and then a little beyond. And–well–occasionally he might see his next door neighbor urinating on a garage. Nevertheless, I think this thirty-something has made a very wise decision only a small percentage of people make. He is Continue reading

Easter And Your Fear Of Death

fear of death

The Fountain

Kathy and I just finished watching The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. IMDB describes the movie this way: “As a modern-day scientist, Tommy (Jackman) is struggling with mortality, desperately searching for the medical breakthrough that will save the life of his cancer-stricken wife, Izzi (Rachel Weisz).”

Jackman’s character Tommy is obsessed with finding a cure for his wife’s cancer to the point where he devotes nearly all his time to his research, often at the expense of his relationship with his dying Izzi. He’s consumed with finding the answer to the problem of death.

Death, Dying, And Easter

I think Easter is one of the most relevant times possible for us to explore our anxiety over our own mortality. I know there are some this Easter who are struggling with the fear of death. And there’s a logic to it because the reality is, despite the amazing progress of science and medicine, one statistic about death remains completely unchanged: 100% of us die. And that inspires fear.

Life insurance companies know this. We see them play on this fear in advertisements on TV and on the internet. The content creators of mass media also recognize our fear of death. When they feature articles about health remedies that promise to help us live longer, they know they’ll attract readers, listeners, and viewers (which in turn attracts advertisers–some of which might be life insurance companies).

But what we fear, I think, is not death itself, but Continue reading

My Experience With Christians (and why it’s so hard to leave the Rogue Valley)

why are Christians so mean

The Sun Sets On The Rogue Valley

Kathy and I are moving away from the beautiful Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon. There will be more on that a little later but first I want to look at how some people view Christians.

Why Do So Many Doctors Treating Ebola Have To Be Christian?

Not long ago I read this article on slate.com about how most of the medical care for Ebola patients in Africa comes from missionaries. And the author, who wasn’t a Christian, made some interesting statements about those missionaries. He said he’s uncomfortable with the missionary medical personnel in Africa because they don’t collect data the way some secular medical organizations do, and because they lack oversight. Then he said this,

“And yet, truth be told, these valid critiques don’t fully explain my discomfort with missionary medicine. If we had thousands of secular doctors doing exactly the same work, I would probably excuse most of these flaws. ‘They’re doing work no one else will,’ I would say. ‘You can’t expect perfection.'”

Kind of weird.

A Pastor Fund Raises For A Gulf Stream Jet Aircraft

Continue reading

Couples With Amazing Marriages All Do This One Thing

great marriages all do this one thing

…and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

A Spirited Exchange Of Ideas (An Argument) Between A Husband And Wife

Kathy and I are in the midst of transition right now, including relocating to a city nearly 300 miles away, the sale of our vacation rental business, and investing in a new area. And of course along with transition of this nature comes, shall we say, spirited exchanges of ideas between husband and wife. And that has me thinking about Continue reading